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What we talk about, when we talk about Dhoni.

by Gaurav Sethi

It’s Dhoni season. Again. When did it stop? It’s just more fevered Dhoni season now. Must admit, I stopped reading posts on Dhoni a while back. That however, did not stop me from writing about Dhoni. Maybe you too should stop reading about Dhoni, there will be nothing new. And whatever new there is, cannot be or will not be spoken. It’s often been like that with Dhoni.

Isn’t it so with the greatest, the most untouchable of men? That when you dare try and diminish their greatness, you tend to diminish yourself. You are but a small man to question his bigness – that his bigness is perennial, and because of his hardy laurels, they will remain bulked up and a bulwark against all threats, past, current, and those yet to be.

Until possibly another player comes along, and almost by cricketing coincidence, by a mathematical prod, hurls us in the same ballpark of greatness – that makes comparisons and reality respectable – such as Virat Kohli’s batsmanship has queried of Tendulkar’s.

Should Dhoni continue to play for India? Should we continue to write such things? Yes. Dhoni sparks debate and draws lines between men like only political parties can these days. It will be repetitive. It will be perilously close to sounding either fanboy or bad boy, but like a cathartic internal cleansing, it will help us understand ourselves and the world we live in.

Will it go beyond You vs. Dhoni or You 4 Dhoni, who knows, maybe you’re one of those rare fence-sitters, who can hold on to the triumphs, yet be subjective when it comes to counting losses, wanting to move on – but knowing that is not an option, so really, there is no need to address the Dhoni question – it cannot be addressed. It is returned to sender. It goes nowhere.

So much banter is like that. And you wouldn’t stop that banter because it doesn’t go nowhere – that which lacks an agenda, that has no purpose, that feather-like float, at a laugh at how it all is panning out – that wonderful denial, which we see, almost with periodic certainty, when another great goes down, extending the cricket retirement age when none exists – because precisely none exists, and golden records question newly minted statistics or vice versa, how crass.

So Rishabh Pant will sit out for Dhoni. For he is yet to lead India to the 2011 World Cup and the 2007 World T20 for his country. He almost certainly never will. That he plays Test cricket today, is because Dhoni retired day before. That he will play T20Is tomorrow, is because Dhoni was, can it be said, dropped, yesterday.

Dhoni is certainty. When the markets tank, worlds collide, you need that. On your screens, he’s as much there as Kohli. He has been for way longer than either you or I can remember, beyond the cricket.

Picking Pant instead of Dhoni is not an option. Yet it will be debated. With numbers. Those picking Dhoni are looking at legacy – they’re picking a golden, albeit dog-eared page from Indian cricketing history – and hoping, almost praying, that its last chapter, will be written with the same certitude as Tendulkar’s.

Unfortunately, India cannot invite West Indies to Chennai for the World Cup finals. In Srini’s world, who knows what could have been.

Will Dhoni make a speech on 14th July 2019 at Lord’s? Will Kohli, as he once did before, dedicate India’s win to another stalwart?

And if it does happen, all those questions, each one of them, of Dhoni, his form, will wash away – each one of us will embrace that golden page as it was written for us. Lord’s will still be baked in sunlight; Kapil Dev will morph into Dhoni – and yet again, there will be nothing new to be written about Dhoni.

As it has always been written.

Dhoni will ramble. It will be an unrehearsed speech. Dimples will emerge. He will answer more questions than asked of him. There will be none of the platitudes that cricketers reserve for such occasions, few thanks, fewer dedications, it will a Dhoni kind of reality check, who knows, a match summary, he may even sound like the captain. Who knows, he may still be the captain that day.

It may not be about the runs he makes. It could be that one last stumping. That call for a review.

As it has always been written.

The boys, including Kohli, will tear Dhoni from the interview, lifting him. There will be a crowd invasion. Someone who was also there in 1983 will be interviewed. By someone who was also there in 1983.

Sunny Gavaskar will interview Kapil Dev. In Hinglish. Ravi Shastri will join them. Making a pompous announcement that will be frozen in time – with images of Hardik Pandya and Khaleel Ahmed taking turns at fluttering the tri-colour.

Behind all this, Virat and Mahi will walk, like two old foxes, on an early morning walk, cracking some dirty joke that nobody else will ever know.

Sounds like a dream? Oh well, Dhoni was never about reality.

First published here

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